Iranian Cleric, Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri Draws Large Crowd

Tens of thousands gathered in Qom for the funeral of popular Iranian cleric, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri following his death late on Saturday evening. In a statement to state television, his doctor said that his death was a result of complications from advanced age, diabetes and asthma. He was 87.

Wall Street Journal – Iranian Mourners Swarm Qom for Montazeri’s Funeral

Opposition leaders vowed to use Monday’s funeral ceremonies to push their anti-government protests. Former presidential candidates Mir Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi attended Mr. Montazeri’s morning burial, according to Mr. Moussavi’s official website.

Large crowds of supporters, many dressed in the opposition’s trademark green, shouted anti-regime chants, along with slogans in support of Mr. Montazeri.

The cleric, long a regime critic, took on the role of spiritual leader for the protest movement that erupted after contested June 12 elections. Messrs. Moussavi and Karroubi and their supporters alleged widespread voter fraud in the contest, in which officials declared President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the winner.

At one point Monday, one group of mourners chanted, “Montazeri, we will continue your path, even if the dictator rains bullets on us,” according to one video from an opposition website.

The Associated Press, citing witnesses, reported some crowds also broke out in, “Death to the dictator,” a slogan popular during the last six-months of protests. Authorities have banned press coverage of the event, and it was impossible to independently verify reports from a handful of opposition sites. The sites have reported reliably on protests in the past.

By midday Monday, there hadn’t been reports of significant clashes with authorities, who had tightened security in the city on Sunday. According to Mr. Mousavi’s official website, police and security forces attempted to block roads leading into the city on Monday.

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